Wednesday, August 18, 2010

MSC slashes objection fee

MSC announced August 2 that it is slashing the fee cap on lodging an objection to a fishery sustainability determination from £15,000 to £5,000.  This sounds like a lucky break for the public who might want to voice concerns regarding some aspect of the sustainability assessment process carried out under MSC.

That is until you stop to think.  A few years ago I paid a fee to my local city council to object to a new property evaluation they carried out on my house.  The objection was heard by an independent adjudicator hired by the city and I had a few dollars shaved off my annual property taxes as a result.  

Like I own my house, the public owns this property, the fish resource.  But, unlike my city council, the MSC has no legal standing.  Why should we pay a group that has not legal standing for the right to object to a wrongful finding related to our property that could well impact its future value in terms of long-term public good?

It makes no sense until you realize that the public are not the client of the MSC process - the industry is.  An objection delays certification of the fishery as sustainable, increases costs for the independent certifier (e.g. Moody Marine Ltd., a for-profit company accredited under MSC standards) and annoys the client.  The fee reduces the number of objections lodged by public organizations and lessons the salary costs of the 4 lawyers hired by MSC as Independent Adjudicators to hear and judge objections.

Perhaps the reduced fee will encourage more public objections to controversial MSC sustainability certifications.  But £5,000  is still pretty steep when you consider what you get.  No objection to a sustainability determination has been upheld by an MSC Adjudicator thus far.

You got nothing for £15,000  now you will get nothing for £5,000 - not really a bargain.

MSC income, was £8 million in 2008/2009 -about half from charitable grants and half from licensing its blue eco-label to components of the supply chain for products from certified fisheries.  The right thing to do would be to eliminate the objection fee altogether.  MSC can afford it, although it may mean putting on hold the opening of a new administrative office in some further corner of the World.

1 comment:

  1. You make an excellent point about who owns the fish - I had honestly never thought of it that way. It really is galling to pay for the privilege of being treated dismissively even when you have arguments that are at LEAST as plausible as what the certification body is putting out. But the process is not for the public, it is for the industry.